How do we develop more integrity?
If one of your New Years’ resolutions was to show up on time, keep your word, take more responsibility, or listen more, your intention is to practise integrity.
Carolyn Nystrom provides useful advice on how to build more integrity into not just your everyday life, but your being.
The commitment to integrity is life-altering. It profoundly transforms how you consider yourself, how you treat others, and how you move through the world.
Integrity: Firm adherence to a code, of especially moral or artistic values. Incorruptibility, an unimpaired condition, soundness, the quality or state of being complete or undivided. Completeness, honesty.
Who or what is a person of integrity? Do I have this quality? How can I cultivate it? Does it matter? Why? And what IS integrity anyway?
Like most writers with an assigned task, I check out the experts. In this case, my aging Merriam Webster dictionary offers phrases like, ‘firm adherence to a code, “incorruptibility,” “soundness,” “completeness,” “honesty,” “undivided.” Do I have all that? Is it even good? In a multi-tasked life, with multiple and sometimes conflicting responsibilities, maybe I need to learn to be a little “divided.” And is anyone or anything ever really “complete?” And who among is “incorruptible” always? That second piece of pie. That less-than-whole-truth response. That labored discerning of which is the least harmful of several less than perfect options.
Yet we value integrity, respect it in others, and seek in our best moments to cultivate it in ourselves.
A few suggestions:
1. Be truthful. Don’t lie. Even to yourself. That doesn’t mean that I must be a jabber-machine explaining the finest details of the most inconsequential information to all within hearing range. It just means speak the truth. Most lying is an attempt to self-protect. I need to admit that I am fairly often mistaken. I must admit my errors and attempt to repair them when possible.
2. Don’t overspend. Math is fairly simple. If I bring in xx dollars a month, then my average spending for that month should be a tad less than the income. Create a savings account for “rainy day” emergencies. Plan ahead for predictable expenses like a daughter headed to college. Invest in insurance as appropriate and available, so that accident, illness, or funeral does not become a financial wipe-out. Financial integrity makes contingency plans for illness, education, job loss, death.
3. Keep deadlines and appointments. For many, time is their most valuable possession. I should not rob my doctor, my work colleague, my friend by not meeting my own obligation to “be there” as scheduled.
4. Treat people as you would like to be treated. God’s Golden Rule, “Do unto others . . .” is indeed golden. I should practice mentally putting myself into someone else’s shoes, attempt to see the world through their eyes. Then act accordingly for their well-being.
5. Prioritize values. My childhood vacation Bible school had a single theme (that I remember). It was JOY: “Jesus first, yourself last, and others in between.” This simple theme will life-long help me practice integrity, and root it out if I begin to self-center.
6. Practice, “It’s not about me.” We all have to shoulder our responsibilities, pay our bills, get to work on time, model family life. But my thought life can get amazingly self-centered. And I wonder why others are not nearly as interested in me as I am. I need to remind myself that I am only a small grain of their thought-load: take care of myself as able, and assist them when needed.
7. Live out, “You see what you get.” It’s actually more simple than remembering to put up some kind of extra-skilled façade whenever you must connect with someone you are trying to impress. If I practice self-honesty (admit my mistakes, accept my skills), then my relationship with others can be straightforward. I have no need to remember what I last pretended, just put my admitted strengths to work in the task ahead.
8. Model Christ. As a Christian, I carry his name. But I’m mere human, not divine. Yet in some mystical sense, I belong to Christ; I am his. He is my teacher, my ruler, my savior—and my example. As I follow his example and his teaching, I can continue to grow in integrity.